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  1. #1
    Steel is real, baby! frpax's Avatar
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    Why is 26" better than 700C?

    I'm building up a touring/commuter. Other than mountain bikes that I've had in the past, everything I've owned has been 700C.

    There seems to be a growing trend/movement to 26" touring bikes, and I'd really like to get a Surly LHT, but I think I'd be better off w/ 700C.

    I do understand some of the advantages, such as:
    Slightly easier to transport
    International availability

    But, I will likely never tour outside the US.

    All other things being equal (gearing, set up, etc.), why should I go 26"

  2. #2
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    There's advantages and disadvantages to both. The 26" LHT will fit much wider tires than the 700C version. The 700C version probably is a bit faster. If you're doing loaded touring, you want strong wheels, wide tires, and lower gearing... 26" gives you all of that. If you want something that's more "road bike"-ish then you could stick with 700C and nobody would fault you.

    Edit: You could get lower gearing, wider tires, and strong wheels with 700C, but it would cost more and take more work.

  3. #3
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I run both sizes depending on where I am touring. All my on road touring is primarily done on 700C. If the route includes very rough roads or fire trails, the 26" wheeled bike goes. Some small frame sizes need the 26" wheel size to make it work. I actually think there are more tire selections available in the 700 rather than the 26". Take a look at the type of touring you are planning and choose what works for you.

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    Mule vs. Horse

    I wonder what a bike like the Singular Peregrine would be like with fat but lightweight 700c tires. 2-inch Stan's Crow at 480 grams weight less than many skinny tires and they have some knobs but are also smooth enough to run fast on pavement. Schwalbe's Furious Fred is only 360 grams. A fast yet plush ride. They're racing tires but still you have to wonder...
    Last edited by Clem von Jones; 02-05-12 at 10:08 PM.

  5. #5
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    If you have a whole lot of 700c bikes hanging around, and you`re torn over the wheel size of your next purchace, I`d let that wall full of 700 tires and extra wheels be the tipping factor. It`s nice to be able to mix and match wheels sometimes, and always nice to be able to maintain a nice stock of different interchangeable tires.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    IMO--I don't think there is any advantage to 26" wheels. I have a high quality set of 700c wheels that are probably stronger than most stock 26" wheels. I also don't plan on using a tire wider than 32mm for touring. They are a good compromise between weight and comfort.

    Part of our route last summer took us over 400+ miles of this type of road and trails. Also about 500 miles of cobblestones and paver block roads and trails.




  7. #7
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Yes, there is a significant growing trend of touring bikes being built with 26" wheels. I'm myself in the process of having one custom built (the first one is a used Miyata 610 with 700c). Here are the reasons why this time I'm going with a 26"-wheeled frame:

    Pros
    * I live in Mexico and availability of rims, tires and spokes is much better with 26". To me that's already huge if you can just get by even with junky parts without having to hop on a bus or ask for a ride to the next largest city where you may find 700c replacements. In the U.S., you can walk into any bike shop of even any Walmart to get you back in route.
    * If you ever decide to upgrade your frame with S&S couplings, you won't have to worry about not having the right wheels (you can still use 700c but you have to remove tubes and tires) to fit in the special 62-inch cases (max. allowed for air traveling without incurring extra fees.)
    * 26" wheels are allegedly stronger and support better lateral tension and heavier weights. For that matter, you can use heavy duty MTB rims, spokes and disc hubs for bomb proof wheels.
    * In the desert southwest (where you are), if you want to ride a combo of asphalt or rougher dirt (service) roads such as the Apache Trail Hwy (AZ88), the road north of Seven Springs, roads around Mt. Elden in Flagstaff, Four Corners region, San Juan Huts in Colorado, etc., 26" touring frames are usually made to fit much thicker rims and tires (up to 2.35" in some frames) which will be more appropriate for these purposes.

    Cons
    * Availability of some accessories (e.g., fenders) is a little better with 700c

    Don't get me wrong... you can still do a lot with 700c, especially if you're going to stick to domestic trips. The way I see it is that 26" is overall more versatile and will allow you to explore more places in the future. I meet a lot of bike tourists here (mostly Europeans who have more time to tour) going from North to South America. I haven't met a single one riding with 700c bikes.
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 02-05-12 at 11:18 PM.
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  8. #8
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    Well, my 26" bikes have v brakes, which deliver huge stopping power. 26" wheels seem to be more stable in true, or a quick adjustment on the bike pulls them into lateral true. I don't recall any of my 26" wheels needing radial truing. You can also lower the pressure on big tires wihout having the same concern about pinch flats, at least me, or go max pressure and get them to roll fairly fast. And, lower center of gravity, more stable with weight..is good for potholed roads and crosswinds. That seems to me to be the pluses.

  9. #9
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    The big advantage of 26" wheels is that tires are easier to find. Every Wal-mart, K-mart, and bike shop in the U.S. will carry 26" tires. 700c tires are more difficult to find, especially wide 700c touring tires.

    Toe overlap is less of a problem with 26" wheels.

    For on-road touring, you probably have slightly more frame and tire choices if you go with 700c wheels.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    IMO--I don't think there is any advantage to 26" wheels. I have a high quality set of 700c wheels that are probably stronger than most stock 26" wheels. I also don't plan on using a tire wider than 32mm for touring. They are a good compromise between weight and comfort.
    My tourer has clearance up to 700c x32mm so that is what I use for tracks and trails. I have ridden much rougher terrain than in those pics by Doug64. There are times when I would have preferred wider tyres but so far, nothing has stopped me riding. Wide 700c is just as useful as wider 26". I think the main decider between 700c and 26" is availability in various countries.
    26" provides a lot of advantages for smaller riders on smaller frames and would say that anyone under 5'3" should not be riding 700c.

  11. #11
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I often describe 26 inch wheeled touring bikes as an Expedition bikes and in many ways bike running 26 inch wheels can be more versatile than a 700c equipped bike if you find you want to run wider tyres (my Cascade will run a knobby 2.0). 26 inch wheels are just a little tougher than similarly built 700c wheels, and for some riders the slightly smaller wheels makes the frame geometry work out.

    As far as speed goes... if you are loaded down and riding a 26 inch wheeled bike on 1.5's there is not going to be much difference in roll out to a touring bike with 700-32 tyres and the higher volume tyres may offer a little more ride comfort due to them being able to be run at a wider pressure range.

    There is also a small gearing advantage with 26 inch wheels if you are looking for the lowest gearings possible unless of course you also happen to use a 20 inch wheeled tourer and then finding adequate top gearing is more work.

  12. #12
    Senior Member 58Kogswell's Avatar
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    26" gives me greater comfort on tour due to the shock absorbing effect of the higher volume/lower pressure tire. Riding cracks in pavement and broken shoulders are not so hard on hands, wrists, shoulders and butt with 26" when you are experiencing that all day.

    I think tire technology has come a long way in the last dozen years, in part thanks to Schwalbe. On two of the bikes I use for loaded touring I run 26 x 2.35 (Schwalbe Fat Frank) tires that are sufficiently flat resistant and grippy in all conditions. Also, my experience is that a tire that wide handles the weight of the load better than the 700 x 35 (Panaracer Pasela) I use on my LHT. When those 700 x 35s are worn I expect to replace them with Schwalbe Marathon Dureme.

    And a final reason for me - my 26" touring bikes have flat bars (Surly Open Bar) which I have found more comfortable for a long day than the Nitto Noodles (drop bar) I use on my 700-tired LHT. I am not as aerodynamic on my 26" bikes and that could slow me down but I sit in a position that is better when I am riding all day. I realize many people say they find drop bars better and I like drop bars fine for shorter rides but not for all day.

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    Well, I'd go with what you are familiar with and are use to riding. As far as availability, well after reading hundreds of Crazyguy journals, I can't remember but once or twice that someone had a massive tire/wheel failure. And while Wally World, etc. will likely have 26 inch tires, in this day and age, who can just get on the Internet and order a 700 tire and have it overnighted to whereever you are (I'm talking US). A well built 26 and a well built 700 will both be more than strong enough. Most mountain bikes now use 700/29er wheels, and those of us riding offroad aren't experiencing tire/wheel failures anymore then when riding 26in.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    It's funny. The trend in mountain biking has buyers going for 29er's rather than 26" wheels because "they're better." In touring people are starting to claim the opposite.

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    It's the international availability thing. When I bought a bike to use for long trips, I took into account that someday I'll probably want to ride in the third world, and for that, 26" is the way to go. Otherwise I'd probably have gotten a 700c bike.

  16. #16
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    IMO--I don't think there is any advantage to 26" wheels. I have a high quality set of 700c wheels that are probably stronger than most stock 26" wheels. I also don't plan on using a tire wider than 32mm for touring. They are a good compromise between weight and comfort.
    Cheese to chalk. If you compare the same quality wheels, 26" come out on top in terms of strength because of the shorter spoke.

    Other advantages of 26":

    Lower gearing. If you use the same components, a 26" wheel will always have lower gearing than a 700C

    Lower wheel mass. A 26" wheel has a smaller diameter which translates to less wheel/tire mass if the tires and wheels are of comparable sizes. That's not to say that it's easy to find a 32mm 26" tire but, if you could find one, it would be lighter than a 700C tire of the same size. On the other hand, you can find very wide 700C tires now (29er is just a 700C with a fancy name) and those are heavier than their equivalent sized 26" tire.

    Lower standover height for smaller riders. For people with average to above average height, this isn't all that important. If you happen to be short, it's critical.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    I think some people are just more familiar with 26" wheels because they come from a mountain biking background. Others would like the option of riding off-road with fat tires.

    I come from a road-biking background and no longer own a mountain bike. To me, having a touring bike with 26" wheels would just be a hassle with no real advantages. I couldn't swap wheels and other parts. The wheels would be heavier with fewer options from light weight, folding tires. My touring bike has very strong wheels (36 H Dyads with Ultegra hubs) and I have lots of options for 700x32 tires that are relatively light weight, durable, folding and low rolling resistance. I have no desire to tour off road or in a 3rd World country.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Cheese to chalk. If you compare the same quality wheels, 26" come out on top in terms of strength because of the shorter spoke.

    Other advantages of 26":

    Lower gearing. If you use the same components, a 26" wheel will always have lower gearing than a 700C

    Lower wheel mass. A 26" wheel has a smaller diameter which translates to less wheel/tire mass if the tires and wheels are of comparable sizes. That's not to say that it's easy to find a 32mm 26" tire but, if you could find one, it would be lighter than a 700C tire of the same size. On the other hand, you can find very wide 700C tires now (29er is just a 700C with a fancy name) and those are heavier than their equivalent sized 26" tire.

    Lower standover height for smaller riders. For people with average to above average height, this isn't all that important. If you happen to be short, it's critical.
    If this really mattered in the real world of common use, then we should all be riding 20 in wheels since their spokes are shorter and the wheels stronger. Let's all call Bike Friday and start ordering some 20 in touring bikes.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Mardmakarm's Avatar
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    In Southeast Asia, 26" wheel spare parts are much easier to find.Tires, inner tubes, spokes, rims etc.
    And many small roads here still look like these touring journals.
    http://www.thaimtb.com/forum/viewtop...33184&start=15
    http://www.thaimtb.com/forum/viewtop...177&start=4890
    http://www.thaimtb.com/forum/viewtop...2988&start=375
    http://www.thaimtb.com/forum/viewtop...3190&start=105
    (or pavement roads with narrow shoulder, imagine when you tired and have to get out of the road because big trucks coming.)

    But i think it would be a different story in Europe where most use 700c, right?
    Alfine 8(Thai forum but pics say thousand words,right?)

  20. #20
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    It's funny. The trend in mountain biking has buyers going for 29er's rather than 26" wheels because "they're better." In touring people are starting to claim the opposite.
    Yeah, but try to fit that same 29er rim/wheel with tires in your normal 700c frame! 29er frames and rims to me are just a totally different ball game. I rode one several years ago and I wasn't impressed the way it rolled compared with my 26" MTB... And the lateral torsion was indeed more noticeable. The problem comes down again to the availability of parts internationally - With a 29er in less developed countries, one would really be S.O.L. big time.

  21. #21
    Steel is real, baby! frpax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clem von Jones View Post
    Mule vs. Horse

    I wonder what a bike like the Singular Peregrine would be like with fat but lightweight 700c tires. 2-inch Stan's Crow at 480 grams weight less than many skinny tires and they have some knobs but are also smooth enough to run fast on pavement. Schwalbe's Furious Fred is only 360 grams. A fast yet plush ride. They're racing tires but still you have to wonder...
    Funny you mention the Peregrine. This is the frame that I really want to get! But I am also considering a few other options, such as Surly's LHT & Cross Check. I do like the Peregrine because of the disc mounts. I'd really like to run disc brakes.

    I do have a couple of sets of 26" wheels hanging around from when I had mtn bikes, and plan on having the hubs relaced onto some 700C rims.

    Currently, my commuter is a 1990 Trek 790 Multi Track, which is a wonderful bike & can easily be a nice tourer as well. I'm doing some upgrades to it, to tide me over until I get the money saved up to get the Peregrine. The Trek is running 700C wheels with 700x35 tires (I need to get some new rims, though) & cantilever brakes. If my plans to save for the Peregrine fall through (unforseen expenses, for example), then I'll just go with the Trek that I have, and the "N+1" new bike will have to wait...

  22. #22
    Senior Member
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    frpax, I don't think that there is a clear cut better wheel size when riding in North America or Europe. The 26" wheel is stronger than a comparable 700C wheel. While not greatly stronger, it is a comfort item for some.

    Brad

  23. #23
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    29er rim Is a 622. like a 700c, but wider for the bead of those 60 wide tires.
    It would come , like a MTB with 135 rear hub. maybe disc ready..

  24. #24
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VT_Speed_TR View Post
    If this really mattered in the real world of common use, then we should all be riding 20 in wheels since their spokes are shorter and the wheels stronger. Let's all call Bike Friday and start ordering some 20 in touring bikes.
    20" wheels have problems with getting a high enough gear to be useful. For example a 48/11 gear with a 700C wheel has a 118" gear. The same gear with a 26" wheel has a 107" gear. That combination with a 20" gear would have an 83" gear. To get a similar gear as the 26" wheel, you'd need a 62 tooth chainwheel. That's a chainring that is 257mm in diameter which could start to have some clearance issues. Plus you wouldn't be able to take advantage of the low gearing on the 20" wheel because there aren't any derailers that could handle a 62 to 22 tooth jump. You'd be limited to around a 34 tooth inner with current derailer technology which gives about the same low gear as a 22/34 on a 26" wheel.
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  25. #25
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    I have toured on 700c and on 26 inch. I considered my 700c LHT to be my pavement touring machine with 37mm tires and my Thorn Sherpa to be my non-pavement machine with 2.0 width tires.

    That said, I bought some 26X1.5 Schwalbe Marathon tires that I plan to use this summer on a 400 to 500 mile tour on pavement. So, not sure if I will do more touring on the 700c LHT as I might do all my future touring on the Sherpa. But, that decision is not based on wheel attributes, it is because I like the way that the Sherpa handles when carrying a load.

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